You have to be feeling brave to put a classical-era RTS out there at the moment. Arguably, Rome: Total War has this region of the genre sewn up at the moment, and those who want a Greek spin-off can download the new Alexander campaign. The Rise of Nations: Thrones and Patriots expansion covered similar ground, and Ensemble’s Age of Mythology hasn’t dated badly, either. And let’s face it: if you want to harvest materials, build bases, raise armies and conquer enemy forces, you’re hardly short of other options. From the good – Rise of Legends, Battle for Middle Earth 2 – to the mildly disappointing – Age of Empires III, Star Wars: Empire at War – the supply of RTS games isn’t exactly drying up.
So Rise and Fall’s biggest problem is that, judged as a straight historical RTS, it falls straight into the bin marked ‘average’.
Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of things to love about it. Firstly, like Rome and BFME2, it has scale on its side. The now defunct Stainless Steel Studios Titan 2 engine is perfectly capable of rendering hundreds of warriors at the same time, along with gigantic war elephants, crumbling fortifications, rolling seas, mighty siege engines and natural-looking trees. The lighting isn’t as effective as it is in Rise of Legends or BFME2, and up-close the models have a rather angular, low-detail appearance, but you can’t dismiss the sheer amount of stuff that the game can throw on the screen. If you want epic, Rise and Fall certainly delivers.
And that’s not all the game handles well. Fortifications are easy to create and actually of genuine use, allowing you to position archers and catapults in defensive positions, and seeming to offer the correct advantages of height and cover. To counter this, siege engines prove very effective, and while the enemy is occupied with these you can sneakily put ladder teams into position and make a bold secondary assault on the walls. Unit building and upgrading is nicely streamlined, individual troops clump automatically into units when they appear, and upgrades are sensibly available at the point of production – don’t you just hate it when you have to build a separate facility just to get a better spearman? Rise and Fall even manages relatively workable naval combat. Troops embark and disembark when they’re told to and ships are able to ram and grapple to board or destroy enemy vessels.